Saturday, May 23, 2009

Okra

Okra is a great vegetable for Georgia gardens. It has beautiful hibiscus-like flowers, loves the heat that comes in July, August, and September, and produces almost until the first frost in October. Okra needs full sun to do its best, and prefers (like most vegetables) that ideal, well-drained, high-in-organic-matter soil that occurs naturally in almost no yard in NW Georgia, but it seems to grow just fine in the clay that we have.

At the Plant-a-Row –for-the-Hungry garden where I volunteer, we will be planting the okra next week. We grow the variety Clemson Spineless, which is very productive but not as uncomfortable to harvest as some varieties.

UGA’s publication on Growing Okra in the Home Garden lists Clemson Spineless as growing only 4-5 feet tall, but our experience is that it gets more than seven feet high. When we harvest, a short person usually follows a tall person through the okra jungle to improve the odds of finding it all.

At my house, I have grown a much shorter okra variety, Cajun Jewel (not the same as Cajun Delight!), which produces full-sized pods but doesn't breach the three foot mark in my yard. However, at seed-ordering time this year, I ordered the variety Louisianna Short. It seemed like time to try a new variety, and this one should also be a good height for a front-yard garden while still producing full-sized okra pods.

I’ve already planted my okra. The seedlings have pushed up, spread their little seed-leaves (cotyledons), and made a start on the first true leaf. But anyone who has had trouble finding a dry day in between the rainy ones to finish planting the garden should not worry too much about the okra. In Cobb County, okra can be planted right through early June.

A Clemson University publication on okra describes some additional varieties that would be great in a front yard garden:

“The red-leafed okra varieties, such as ‘Red Velvet’, ‘Royal Burgundy’ (a 1988 All-America Selection winner) and others, are especially attractive as focal points or backdrops in flower borders. Numerous other varieties – often with red in the name - have deep red pods and bright green leaves. Red okra seeds are often shared between gardeners as “passalong” plants, and many of these have red pods and stems, but green leaves. ‘Little Lucy’, a 1998 All-America Selection winner, is a truly dwarf, red okra that grows to only 2 feet tall. It has red leaves and stems. The 3-inch-wide peachy yellow flowers are veined with red. ‘Little Lucy’ okra is terrific used either in flower borders or containers. ‘Silver Queen’ okra has pale lime-green pods that contrast with the deep green leaves. Red or purple okra pods turn green when cooked and are not startling on the plate.”

2 comments:

  1. let me know when you plain on picking your okra...I will be gone that day!
    And let me know when you plain on eating your okra... I will be here that day...lol

    I LOVE to eat okra but HATE to pick it!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I pick okra two or three days each week in the late summer (now!) and eat it about that often. It is so much better fresh from the yard than old and limp from the produce section of the grocery store.

    ReplyDelete

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